Desert still life

Desert still life at the Berlin Botanical Gardens

 

DESERT STILL LIFE

 

Ooooh wee, this post is decidedly overdue! But as the old adage goes; better late than never right? This is my first Urban Jungle Bloggers entry and I’m so thrilled to be part of it, even if it is a little late. For their October still life series, the chosen theme was desert. A perfect juxtaposition to the currently wet and wintery weather…

It’s hard not to fall in love with flora from arid regions. I instantly recall the magnificent colours of the desert rose (Echevaria), the fiery limbs of the Euphorbia tirucalli, often called fire sticks, or the spiky spheres of the barrel cactus. This one gives me a giggle cause as a little girl I pretended to sit on one. In expected protest it pricked me on my bum and I can still remember, firstly my surprise at the itchy burn of the sting, and secondly, my sister cracking up at my silly manoeuvre.

 

Ecvevaria's and other succulents at the Botanical Gardens in Berlin

 

There are so many awesome succulents that it’s almost impossible to choose a favourite. But one of the forerunners in my opinion, would most certainly be the Myrtillocactus. I call it the Lucky Luke cactus. They look just like cartoon characters throwing their arms up in protest. Almost like they’re ready for a fist fight. It’s a tough life in the desert. Which of course is why their entire bodies are covered in spikes.

 

Perfectly still still life of arid region cacti

 

But not all of them look like meanies. With their hairy hides, the Cleistocacti seem almost cuddly; like they’re wearing sweaters as they wave you over with their long spiny arms. The african Aloes are equally welcoming; like the vera with its spotted tentacles or the thick and fleshy candelabra-like head of the ferox

 

Hairy Cleistocacti at the botanical gardens in Berlin. For UJB Still life

 

If you’re in Berlin and want to meet some of these prickly and spiny characters, you can find an entire greenhouse filled with them at the Berlin Botanical Gardens. I’ve decided to use a photo from one of my visits there as inspiration for my October UJB entry. In a way, the thoughtfully assembled desert garden serves as the perfect still life in itself.

 

Still life in the desert photoshoot for UJB

My own desert still life for Urban Jungle Bloggers

 

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A rainy day escape to the Berlin Botanical Gardens

A rainy day trip to the Berlin Botanical gardens.

 

THE BERLIN BOTANICAL GARDENS

A rainy day escape

 

On her recent trip to Berlin, my lovely sister Almarie suggested we venture down to Steglitz for a visit to the Berlin botanical gardens. Almarie’s quite the phytophile and so we hopped on our bicycles and headed down south.

 
Tropical Greenhouse at Berlin Botanical Gardens
 

From the entrance on Unter den Eichen the gardens didn’t look like much, but we payed the 6 euro entrance anyway and proceeded into the park. Soon after we set down the first pathway I started feeling a little apprehensive about the outing. Thus far the Berlin botanical garden grounds were rather, er, underwhelming and it had just started to drizzle. With dismay I thought we’d chosen probably the worst day to explore a mildly exciting garden and suggested we headed to the glass houses to escape the rain.

 

Weird and wonderful plants at the Berlin Botanical GardenBotanical-Gardens-Berlin-Tropical-Greenhouse

 

As soon as we entered the huge mechanical structure my disdain swiftly disappeared. The conservatories or Gewächshäuser, as they’re called in german, are huge glass and steel structures that cleverly controls the weather and with its 23m high dome the main tropical greenhouse is one of the largest in the world. Thanks to its size, the Berlin botanical conservatory houses a breathtaking tropical paradise with giant palm trees and towering vines and epiphytes.

 

Berlin Botanical Garden Conservatory Detail

Beutiful-and-strange-specimens-at-Berlin-Botanical-Garden

 

Next we found ourselves in the desserts of the south with a marvellous welwitschia enchanting us with its beautiful inelegance. More succulents and cacti awaited in the adjacent chambers with long furry characters and their spiky friends. To our amazement the botanical greenhouses held an incredibly rich collection of specimens; from China, New Zealand and Japan, to Africa, North America and the Canaries. In fact they have 15 different chambers, each designated to a specific biosphere. 

 

Cacti and succulents from the Berlin Botanical Gardens
 
We spent so much time in every hall that we had to break for coffee – and off course on account of the weather – for some cake. I can highly recommend the chocolate one. It was delicious. The cappuccino wasn’t bad either.

With full bellies we went on to explore the carnivorous plants and gawked at the almost florescent flowers in the rainforest. Later we felt proud and a little nostalgic to discover the beautiful South African biosphere with it’s massive species of Aloes, crassulas and euphorbias.

 

Greenhouse at the Botanical Gardens in Berlin

 

Finally, our trip around the world ended in the Mediterranean, but not before we got a short introduction to the different uses of plants; things like cocoa and bulbs and poisons I do not remember the name of.

What I thought was going to be a drab and dreary day turned out to be a spectacular journey around the world – an absolutely sensory rich experience. So if you love plants as much as I do and you feel like taking a trip abroad but can’t afford the plane ticket, just pop into the greenhouses at the Berlin botanical gardens. It’ll be a mind-blowing treat.

 

 

When to go: Open all year but perfect for rainy days

Where is it: Entrances are on Unter den Eichen 5-10, 12203 Berlin (Metrobus M48) or Königin-Luise-Platz, 14195 Berlin (ExpressBus X83, Bus 101)

Price per person: €6.00 (Cash only – they do not take credit, debit cards or EC Karte)

 

Very tetchy Echeveria

echeveria close-up

Houseplant Hour: Echevaria

Counter to what the name might suggest our next succulent is not as prickly as its thorny peers, but just as chubby and charming.

The Echeveria, a rosette forming succulent, belongs to the Crassulaceae family and is native to the arid areas of Central America. Echeverias are closely related to Graptopetalum, and have been hybridized to form the Graptoveria. They’re so similar in fact that you’ll have a hard time telling the difference. In any event, these fat fingered succulents make very popular houseplants, due to their hardiness and beautiful colours.

Bunch of echeverias

Care: Echeverias like dry air and plenty of sun, so position them in spots where they get loads of sunlight for most of the day. They require well draining potting soil in containers that drain thoroughly.

Water: Allow the soil to dry out completely between watering. This will depend on the location of your plant and the conditions of your home so stick your finger in the soil to make sure it’s bone dry before you give it a good watering. During the winter months they require even less water. As with most succulents overwatering will cause your plants to rot.

Propagation: Echeveria’s produce offsets or baby plants that you’ll see popping up around the parent. Carefully pull these out and replant them. You can also propagate them by laying leaf cuttings on top of the soil. Sometimes plants can grow heavy and break off when you handle the pot. Simply stick them back in some soil and they should take again.

Wonderful green hues from BHG
Wonderful green hues from BHG

This large genus of succulents produce a myriad of colour varieties that can range from turquoise to a light lime or mint. These cool hues are perfect for creating a calm and tranquil atmosphere in your home. Some species have magical gradients like light green to pink or purple. Use these tones together for a surprising colour scheme that’s a perfect balance of serenity and zeal.triptych of echeveria

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Fiery pink works surprisingly well alongside cool tranquil greens on beppebrancato.com

pink echeverias

Add a sense of luxury with green velvets alongside light orangey pinks.
Add a sense of luxury with green velvets alongside light orangey pinks.